Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 New York Comic Con - Start to Finish

2013 New York Comic Con - Behind-The-Scenes Video

NYCC Video of Oct. 8-11 2013:

2013 New York Comic Con - Start to Finish
Booth before set up

Booth Up-And-Running
I met Tramp Daly through a childhood friend Quanzilla (A.Waymaker, Saddler Ward) Tilman. Tramp and Quan are both expert artist with strong hip hop influences. It is the summer of 2013 and Tramp has a dream and a partial vision for exposing Sureshot, his company, at a booth inside 2013 NY Comic Con. Sureshot is a hip hop inspired company producing art pieces, graphic novels and television cartoons; all hip hop influenced. Based on my audio visual experience and owning A. V. Rental Services, Inc., my Philadelphia based audio visual equipment rental company, Tramp enlisted me for scheduling, booking, planning, assistance in booth design, AV, Stage and Lighting equipment rental and equipment set up & breakdown.
Quanzilla w/ Inspector Gadget

From the start it was made clear, the scope of my work was everything non creative. This was to be the case right up until day 1 of set up. Up front it was a good feeling to be solely responsible of the entire logistical planning of the 2013 New York Comic Con booth. When it comes to Comic Con planning and booth rental experience however, I had none. My first order of business was contacting the Comic Con Organization and becoming acclimated with doing business as well as working within the Jacob Javits Center. 
The event budget was never revealed to me. I thought it would be necessary, at the least helpful to have this information. In retrospect, it would only have been important if the budget was unrealistic, which it obviously was not because there was little quibbling over pricing. A welcomed change in my line of work. Bear in mind the invoice was HEAVILY discounted based on my personal vested interest and friendships involved. In addition, I planned to throw in extra equipment and my personal on-site tech services, at no extra charge.

Tramp, DMC & Bruce Johnson
The New York Comic Con, if not all of the Comic Cons, is ran by the ReedPop Supply Company. In reference to my email correspondence with ReedPop, email responses from ReedPop staff was horribly slow and obtaining Comic Con booth, floor maps proved to be challenging. Tramp and The Sureshot Company pockets were deep enough to secure an ample sized corner, peninsula booth; which was unexpected and indeed impressive. Unexpected because Sureshot's primary focus was showing and bringing awareness to the hip hop inspired artwork and television shows, which alternatively positioned selling Sureshot merchandise as the secondary focus.

Creating a scratch design drawing of our awesome booth was the next item on the menu. This included determining how and where we would highlight Tramps artwork, which equipment we would use to draw attention to our booth, and which back line equipment we would use for the rotating disc jockeys. In detail this included L.E.D. lighting, pipe and drape, lighting truss, two 60 inch television, sound system, turntables, microphones and a stage. I mocked up a CAD drawing for visualizing our booth and to help with any wanted changes of adding or taking away equipment.

Our numerous design meetings resulted in decisions on artwork placement and adding couches, carpet, tables, bookshelves and merchandise cabinets to our booth vision. This highlighted my next duty which was securing a furniture rental company. The merchandise cabinet was a must but furniture rental would take us over budget due to the added union labor charge we would incur after the furniture reached the Javits loading dock.
The carpet was later cut for the same reason, in addition to even higher charges to have the carpet installed within the booth. In the end we brought our own inflatable couch, area rug and custom Sureshot logo, vinyl floor covering.
With a soft booth design complete it was time to attack union scheduling. This meant determining which unions we required (Shipping and Receiving, Carpenters, Electricians, etc.) and estimating the hours needed for the union to build our booth. We teetered with the idea of having an analog telephone (for credit card transactions) and/or hard wired internet at the booth. Both were subsequently nixed based on budget. 
The first union to tap our wallets would be the labor department. Their overpaid duties would be unloading our van. I was mentally preparing my verbal delivery, to Tramp, of inflated quotes for union labor we were sure to receive. Little did I know Tramp obviously heard similar rumors and was expecting high numbers from the unions. However, in addition to rumors, Tramp also heard stories of being able to sneak/load equipment in the front door, bypassing the union shipping and receiving charges. This is where Tramp and I had our first disagreement. Minor in retrospect, but a disagreement all the same. Tramp wanted to sneak all of our equipment in the front door. Lighting truss, 60 inch television cases and all. My concern was angering the union and ruining a relationship with the Javits center I was developing since starting the booth planning. When I possibly return to the Javits center for future rental jobs, I want to return to smiles and a pleasant atmosphere. Moreover, my company had to increase our insurance to satisfy the Javits center's insurance requirements. This added insurance cost has to stay on our policy for 1 year. I would like to have more than 1 invoice carrying this insurance increase. Finally we decided to play it by ear, using the union for big equipment cases and loading in smaller items through the front door. I must say Tramp was correct, we probably could have loaded everything in through the front door. I say this is the case because at the end of Comic Con we loaded everything 'out' through the front door. Having so said, we pissed the union off in doing so.

At this point in my life I had only heard rumors from non-union companies, of the nightmare of dealing with the unions in New York. The preconceived notion of future headaches were looming in the back of my mind. During the planning, my casual thoughts were full of vsions of union reps yelling at my guys for connecting a microphone or my workers being reprimanded for carrying a box. 
As October neared, my anxiety increased, which is normal for me with jobs of this size and larger. The same holds true for all jobs in which I have a personal vested interest, large or small. The equipment we would deliver from our Philadelphia location was finally written in stone. The equipment list/invoice ended up including some unorthodox items such as bookshelves (to be assembled on site) tables and custom artwork support clamps, designed by me. Most new items were never added to the invoice; they were thrown in at no extra charge.

Javit's Center Receiving
Alright so all the planning is in order and the time is HERE. It is 8am of October 8, 2013 and time to drive to New York and initiate booth assembly. There is no time for procrastinating and no time for altering the ultimate plan; only time to implement everything we strategize for the past 3 months. Thomas TJ Curry, one of my guys drives our van up the turnpike, northward; Philly to Manhattan. I follow close behind, anxious and eager to complete load in…anxious and eager to meet these union guys. I sent one guy from my staff based on the understanding everyone would be joining in for set up and breakdown. Teamwork makes the dreamwork! We are Family…like Sister Sledge said, right. Well folks, have no fear, it was that way. Thank goodness because my guys work for a living and TJ has no investment in what I have been doing for the past 3-4 months and nor do I require this of him. Anyway, we arrive at the Jacob Javits Center and I schedule a time with Freeman Labor to unload the van in the loading dock off 12th Ave. In the meantime Tramp and Quan are doing everything they can to start unloading through the front door on 11th Ave. We grind and hustle and manage to unload all of our equipment through the front door, except for the truss and large screen TV's. Freeman called once to let us know we were to approach the dock and unload. I told them my guys had a flat tire and would enter the dock when the van was operational; that is if we did not just change our minds and go home…a total lie. The second time they called we only had the truss, stage and TV's left in the van and we agreed to throw the union a bone and let them unload the remainder. Honestly, I feel we could have unloaded every damn thing through the front door but the dock appointment was scheduled with Freeman loading and I have a thing about honor. 
All of our equipment, at this time is in the building and we are prepared to commence setting up the booth. We are approached by the union numerous times during the set up process to be reminded of our  limitations in performing our own labor. I must say, while we were able to slip by the union bringing in equipment, performing manual labor of any seriousness (operating power tools, hanging TV's, climbing up and down trussing , etc.) was not going to happen. Often my anxiety is my driving force; wanting to be in the end zone pushes me to work fast most of the time. With that being said, the majority of our audio visual equipment was set up by the end of day, October 8th. Much to my surprise, we were even able to stand up the truss goal post. The remainder of the equipment; TV's hanging on truss, speakers hanging on truss an large banner sitting on top of the truss, we were being forced to hire the union to set up and hang; so my hands were tied. I clocked out around 8pm.

The next morning I arrived to the TV's and speakers hung in their perfect position. The only thing left was hanging the humongous 'Badlands Movie' banner on top of the trussing. Guess why the banner was not set up…because the TV's and speakers were hung by the electricians and the banner had to be set up by Carpenters. Yes the vinyl banner, aluminum pipe and velour drape had to be set up by the masters of woodworking.
Now it all makes sense doesn't it?
I had to schedule an appointment with the Carpenters union to have this done. It was a speedy process thank goodness and they had the banner set up less than 3 hours later. I spent the entire day at the booth, setting up alone and hit 95 South about 5pm when all AV equipment was set and I could not find anything else I could do on my own. It was a load off my back having all of the AV equipment set up.
Day 1: October 10, 2013, of 2013 New York Comic Con is here and we are ready. With all of my AV duties completed and Comic Con doors opening at 3pm, I expected to slide in to town at my leisure...Oh I don't know, 1, 2, 3 O'Clock. Not a chance, my phone was ringing at 10am! No problem, fuck breakfast…my favorite meal of the day. New York here I come. I sure wish Tramp and I established a schedule during those August meetings. Then we would have known ahead of time, who would man the Comic Con booth each day and for how long. Take a note for next year.
With our second argument recorded in the history books, Day 1 started slightly rocky but it was surely sweet…not smooth, sweet sailing from there on. I say not smooth because this was our 1st Comic Con booth and hiccups and speed bumps were to be expected. One of the Day 1 speed bumps were a shortage of Comic Con badges for our guest DJ's to enter. Comic Con uses an efficient tracking system and is very strict about only allowing 1 person per badge. While I unsuccessfully tried to finesse and flirt with the ladies at the entrance to get our DJ's in; all hail the king Oose who bum rushed his way through the gates each day. Each day we had different DJ's and special guest appearing at our booth. On October 10th, Con Day One, Hot97 Radio DJ, DJ Enuff appeared and spun music for hours. We drew large crowds, Con goers danced in the aisles and DJ Enuff socialized with the audience. DJ Ignishun also spun and had the Cosplay crowd sweating in their costumes.